Craig Davidson, Cataract City

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This book will take you for quite a ride! It is a story of a life-long friendship between two men who take very different paths in life but whose common origins keep bringing back together. In particular, having survived an ordeal (being taken into the woods by a madman who then dies in the middle of nowhere) creates bonds that nothing can destroy. Even though the one who becomes a police officer is instrumental in the second being arrested and put in jail… And who does the second call to pick him up when he is released? And who helps him orchestrate revenge on the crook who contributed to his arrest? The Cataract City of the book is the underbelly of touristy Niagara Falls, with its residential working class neighborhoods, its small-time crooks, its seamy businesses and the survival strategies of all involved. When the two protagonists, Dunk and Owe, get lost in the woods a second time, I did not thing they would make it. But they are not the kind to curl up into a ball and wait to die, so they kept going.

This complex tale is woven from two points of view, Duncan’s and Owen’s, with their mixed loyalties, rich relationships and minor betrayals. In Cataract City, life is hard, but so are some of its inhabitants. Hard in their lack of fear, lack of forgiveness, and their dogged pursuit of a better life.

Of the three short-listed books from the 2013 Giller Prize that I read, this one comes closer to being winning material, in my humble opinion. However, it did not win, as Lynn Coady’s collection of short stories Hell Going did. Now I guess I’ll have to give that one a shot too.

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